On a recent Sunday afternoon, a group of children gathered at the Agricultural Hall for the first meeting of the Paint What You See Club, led by Allen and Lynne Whiting.

The event was part of new winter programming for the burgeoning 4-H program on the Island. The Whitings had been urged by their daughter Bea, the nurse at the Chilmark School, to get involved with 4-H.

“I’ve never met a kid who didn’t like to draw,” said Mr. Whiting, a well-known Island painter. He quickly signed on.

Lynne and Allen Whiting lead kids through drawing exercises at the Ag Hall.

Mrs. Whiting shared with the children the motto of 4-H: head, heart, hands and health. She then asked about their favorite animals and vegetables before moving on to prompts for drawing exercises.

“I want you to go inside your mind,” Mrs. Whiting said. “Use your imagination. What do you think a sheep looks like, or a horse, a dog, a lamb or a rooster? It’s your impression of what’s inside your head, not what someone told you. There’s no right or wrong.”

Revitalizing 4-H on the Island began five years ago, led by Brian Athearn and Julie Scott, president and vice president of the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society. They initially worked with 4-H in Barnstable County, which provided program structure and was a conduit to UMass, which handles paperwork, waivers, insurance, code of conduct and registration.

Ms. Scott credits Judy Vollmer, an educator with Barnstable’s 4-H, for counseling the Vineyard leaders. That work now continues with Molly Vollmer, Judy’s daughter, through the Plymouth County 4-H Club.

Sheep shearing is also part of the program. — Ray Ewing

Much of the focus this year is on increasing off-season offerings. Over the next five months, children will be able to learn about painting and sketching, baking, birdwatching and crafts of yesteryear, in addition to practical experience with farms and animals.

The program choices are a result of collaborations between Island nonprofits brought together by the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society. Lucy Grinnan, the Agricultural Society’s dedicated 4-H manager, said they began by making a list of the Island’s nonprofits to see what they already offered.

“Several nonprofits — like Sheriff’s Meadow — have been excited to get involved because they had existing education programs that they wanted to re-start, post-pandemic. This was an easy way,” Lucy said.

Partner organizations include the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, Slough Farm and The FARM Institute. And a grant from Dukes Conservation District makes it possible for students to attend free.

“There’s a lot of free time in the winter,” Lucy said. “We want to give Island kids a chance to meet kids from other schools, breaking up the insularity. Getting kids outside to think about farming and where food comes from — and that happens even in the drawing or baking groups.”

At the Whiting’s drawing class, Billy Confalone created a picture of carrots growing underground and apples flourishing in the trees. Asa Ruel brought a flock of chickens to life on the page, and Loretta Ryerson conjured up a prancing horse, sharing that her grandmother taught her how to draw at home by using a projector.

At the end of the class, each student left with their own personally-illustrated box with a sketchpad and pencils.

“It’s all part of a broad community engagement goal,” Lucy said.